Historical empathy is the ability to understand and appreciate what life was like for people who lived in a different time and place. This is a central purpose of teaching history, as it provides students with a clearer perspective about their own time and place. To measure historical empathy, we included three statements on the survey with which students could express their level of agreement or disagreement:
1) I have a good understanding of how early Americans thought and felt;
2) I can imagine what life was like for people 100 years ago; and
3) When looking at a painting that shows people, I try to imagine what those people are thinking. We combined these items into a scale measuring historical empathy.
Students who went on a tour of Crystal Bridges experience a 6 percent of a standard deviation increase in historical empathy.